Julian Marszalek meets the first of the Gallagher brothers (and his trusty second in command) out of the post Oasis starting gates and finds him in combative mood.
Standing with his hands clasped firmly behind his back, Liam Gallagher stares from behind his fringe to give an almost withering look of contempt. His mouth gives off the merest hint of a sneer but one suspects that he feels that it isn’t worth the bother as he finds himself feeding a hunger that’s clearly palpable. He stands like an immovable rock impervious to what’s going on around him. He’s at the centre of the universe and right here, right now, nothing else matters other than the music that he’s bringing a voice to.
That voice… one part John Lydon sneer to two parts John Lennon nasal delivery is about to set the country alight. These are the anthems that will soon be on everybody’s lips, a soundtrack to hedonism, freedom and late nights that morph into early mornings and beyond…
…and so much for The Quietus’ first encounter with Liam Gallagher back in May 1994 at Windsor’s Old Trout when Oasis, then touring ‘Shakermaker’, were building up a rabid fanbase thanks to live shows that combined instantly accessible songs with a seductive sonic ferocity that hadn’t been heard since the days of The Jesus & Mary Chain.
Ah yes – The Jesus & Mary Chain. Two brothers at war who finally fell apart both painfully and publicly and it’s a story that comes to be repeated as Liam and older brother Noel find their relationship and band disintegrating as internecine fighting finally brings the Oasis tale to a sad and sorry end. Like the subsequent albums post (What’s The Story) Morning Glory, their 2009 demise may have proved predictable but the undeniable truth for both believers and haters was that by reaching the conclusion of this sprawling saga, a large entertaining hole has been left wide open and gaping on the cultural landscape.
The Quietus has found itself in the presidential suite of a Marylebone hotel to meet both Liam Gallagher and guitarist Andy Bell as they ready themselves to launch their post-Oasis band, Beady Eye – formed with erstwhile band mates, guitarist Gem Archer and drummer Chris Sharrock - with their debut album, Different Gear, Still Speeding and inaugural UK tour.
Contrary to his hell-raising image, Liam Gallagher proves to be a charming and genial host. Relaxed and at ease with himself, he’s possessed of a fierce self-belief and self-awareness that’s frequently overlooked in the column inches that he generates. His intelligence is evident as he considers the questions that are put to him and the frankness of his answers is refreshing and, at times, shocking. It’s this strength that can be a weakness. Unlike many artists of his stature who are adept players at the publicity game, Gallagher refuses to censor himself and the pain caused by the implosion of the band he helped create means that he lashes out at his brother in the most provocative (and occasionally unpleasantly misogynist) terms. But his anger seems to be directed solely at his brother and himself.
His blue eyes hold your gaze and there’s an ever-present sense of danger about his demeanour which probably goes some way to explain why two music PRs sit at opposite ends of the room like a pair of referees in case it all kicks off.
Of course it doesn’t and the interview is punctuated by much laughter. The passion that Gallagher and Bell exude when discussing their new musical venture is at the heart of what fuels them. They’re acutely aware of what they’ve created and its place in the pop firmament and their hunger for success is no different from when they both started off their respective bands all those years ago…
The Oasis split has been fairly well documented elsewhere but how did you feel immediately after the split? Did you feel relieved or did you feel apprehensive about the future?
Liam Gallagher: No, not relief. But that’s life and I could kind of see it coming. It had been brewing for a bit and Noel was acting like a fucking woman, like a bitch and I was acting like a dickhead. But I like to think that there’s a reason behind my fucking actions because I like to keep it clean. There was a lot of shit going down and a lot of shit being written about my band and shit in the press and all that and Noel being so fucking close to the press. He was having a word with some of his friends in higher places and if it was me, I’d be fucking pulling knobheads up and saying to journalists, 'Wind your fucking neck in a bit.'
But you know, his mates are more important than his brother or his fucking band so fuck him. I’m not having it. You know, people who slate me in the press and coming back to my dressing room and drinking my fucking beer? Fuck that; it doesn’t work like that round my way, mate. You slag me off you don’t come to my fucking dressing room and drink my beer. That was basically it. It’s not all about me drinking or bollocks like that; it takes two to tango, you know what I mean?
But how did you feel immediately afterwards?
LG: Relief, to be quite honest; I’ll give you that. Shock as well but I knew that it was coming. And now, I’m very glad that it’s fucking all over. Which is a shame but nothing lasts forever. Judging in hindsight, which is the best thing, what’s grown out of it is Beady Eye and we’re making fucking music.
Andy Bell: I was on the sidelines of Liam and Noel’s issues but at the same time I felt like we’d all been sacked from Oasis. Things were finally taken to the next level. Oasis had been such a massive force that you end feeling like you’d been sacked.
LG: It was like a Noel solo thing anyway. He was doing everything. You’d say something like, “Like try this” and you’d get a look as if to say, “What the fuck are you talking about, you clown?” and that doesn’t wash with me, man. He might have written the tunes but I sang them and I like to think that I sold them. I stood my ground, he stood his ground and two worlds collided.
AB: It was the natural end to the band. Oasis had a life span and it wasn’t going to last forever. It wasn’t like one of those bands like the Stones. It was always going to do one in the same spirit that it started. When I was in the band we did a little tour without Noel and there were always some issues and madness going on. From that point on that was the way that it hobbled along. In saying all this, the last tour we did was the best we’d ever done. As a live band we got better and better and on the stadium shows on that tour we played really, really well. But within the band, something had to go at some point.
How soon after the break-up did you decide to form Beady Eye?
AB: We went back to the hotel [after Noel walked out] and sat around drinking beer and we were there! The band members of Beady Eye were there so it didn’t take much of a leap to go, 'Let’s do something.'
Andy, was there ever point of loyalties being tugged because my understanding is that Noel brought you into the band…
LG: [interrupting] See, this is the thing. Noel’s getting credit for [drummer Chris] Sharrock, Gem, Andy and everyone else and I get credit for all the people that got fucking sacked. Noel didn’t just go, 'Right, I’m going to get Andy Bell!' because he’d have to come through me. Both of us hired people and if anyone sacked anybody then it was Noel Gallagher. He sacked [drummer Alan White] Whitey, he sacked Bonehead, he sacked Guigsy [bassist, Paul McGuigan] and whoever else it fucking was but the hiring came from both of us. Noel Gallagher hired everyone? Fuck off, mate!
AB: Look, Noel walked out on the band. He didn’t say, 'Andy, do you fancy heading off with me?'
LG: And a statement was made pretty fucking quickly that night. It wasn’t like a week later, it was basically, 'I’m outta here!' Bosh! 'Here’s my statement.'
Was there any question of you stopping playing?
LG: Never, ever. We’re here to make music, man. Noel Gallagher’s not going to stop us. Fuck that! He’s the brother of a brother in a band. If he wants to walk and doing his fucking thing then fine, man. No one's gonna stop us making music because of Noel Gallagher. Fuck that! I like to think that we’ve got it in us.
Given the way that you described the working practices of Oasis, how much freedom does Beady Eye afford you in comparison?
AB: Beady Eye is a democracy and we all bring in ideas and we all bring in songs and of course we have complete freedom. That’s the thing that has to be mentioned in comparison to Oasis. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t have freedom in Oasis because we did. The dynamic in Beady Eye is really healthy.
LG: We’re all doing what we want to make this band great down to the album cover, our interviews, our videos, our tunes and we just fall into it. It’s a band and that’s what I like. We’re all watching each other’s backs. If it fails then we’ll all carry that weight but if it becomes a big success then we’ll all rejoice in that.
Oasis notched up some incredible milestones – Knebworth, multi-nights at Wembley Stadium, cracking the US Top 10. What do you want to achieve with Beady Eye? Can you match that? Do you even want to match that? Are you ambitions now different?
AB: Totally different. Our ambitions are about music, really.
LG: Yeah, and to still be making music. We’re thinking about it and thinking that we can be great. I like to think that we could start where we left off but it’s still early days.
AB: We’re playing different kinds of songs and where trying not to trade off the Oasis thing. The only way that we’d be trading off of it is if we’d play those songs which fucking isn’t much fun. When Noel Gallagher does it, he’ll have the whole Oasis back catalogue and that’s cool but we’re a different band and we’ve got our own bunch of tunes and that’s it.
LG: We don’t need those fucking tunes, you know what I mean? But Beady Eye’s [success or failure] won’t be through a lack of trying. Without a doubt, because we’re playing great, the songs are great and some of the songs here stand up to anything that Oasis have ever done. And the next [album] will be. But it’s not in our hands, it’s in the hands of the people upstairs but we are shit hot and we’re as good if not better than Oasis.
So what are your musical ambitions?
LG: Just to get out there and play, one tour at a time, man. Smash fuck out of this tour, let people know that we’re not dicks and that we can play our instruments and that the album’s great and that we can play live; get out to the festivals and fucking be the talking point of that festival. I’m not going there to play second fiddle to anyone. Whether we do or not is another fucking thing but we’ll be going in there like we fucking own it and not in an arrogant way but saying, 'This is our fucking thing' and be the talking point. And that’s it and then go back and start the new record and do the same again.
Do you feel under any pressure at the moment?
LG: None whatsoever. There’s no pressure. We’re doing what we want and if we don’t want to do it then we won’t do it.
You’ve both started bands before from ground level up. How does forming Beady Eye as established musicians compare?
AB: It’s very similar. You know, we’ll demo a tune with just the band in the room. It’s not posh – you’re doing it because you want to do it when you haven’t got a deal. Even though we had the wherewithal to start our own label doesn’t change the fact that we started this on a “starting-in-a-room” level and these are all our tunes and that for me really reminds me of that time in my life [when Ride started].
LG: That same hunger is there, without a doubt. Once we’re outta here and back in that rehearsal room we’re like everybody else except we’re that little bit fucking cooler, man. It’s definitely happening.
AB: When you go to a band’s gig, if they’re going to be shit then they’re going to be shit. It’s the dynamic between the band members that makes for a great gig. And the audience is a massive part of it and that room is what makes the gig and if we don’t stand up then we’ll get found out.
LG: We want to go round the world and play all these places, you know? We want this to be a massive success but at the same time because of the way of the world and that, it won’t be a let down if it doesn’t. I’m not going to be sitting there going, “Fuck!” We’ll just get up and make a new record. This is what we do. We’re not going to change our thing just because we’re not hip at the moment or anything but we’re going to stick to our guns. We want to be big, man. But if we were a younger band and it didn’t happen then your world would be shattered a bit more.
AB: We have different values now. Playing Wembley Stadium isn’t an end. We’re chasing that great record.
Your first release, ‘Bring The Light’, wrong-footed a lot of people, didn’t it?
AB: I didn’t think that it was going to be so shocking. In the context of the album it makes sense.
LG: I think [the naysayers] would’ve moaned whatever we put out. You put an Oasis record out and they’re going to fucking moan. I’m glad it’s out and I thank the Lord for tunes like that and it turned me on and the guys are having a great time. If people don’t get it first time around, so be fucking it. We got it first time around. That’s the music that we like but we don’t drive around in Cadillacs. You see how my hair is? I don’t do it like that for the interviews and then afterwards fucking grease it back! That’s music, man. That’s Elvis; that’s Jerry Lee Lewis; that Eddie Cochran. That’s the bones of it but to put a whole album of that out would be fucking ridiculous.
The press have recently been putting it about that rock music is dead.
LG: It probably is in places. But it’s not round our way. It’s as simple as that, really.
AB: It’s not really in the charts much though, is it? But it reminds me of ‘89/’90 because it was a similar thing then. It was all massively pop and Stock, Aitken and Waterman were viewed in the same way that X Factor is now.
LG: It’s nice to have a Number 1 record and a Number 1 single but it doesn’t matter so long as we can go out and do mega-storming gigs, you know? That’s all that matters to us. We’ve been round the block and we can take these things on the chin a bit. Just because the single goes in at Number 31 or whatever doesn’t mean that we’re a shit band. It’s just that the times have changed and we haven’t.
AB: Beady Eye are connected to rock & roll’s primal howl. Our music has got that 50s spirit, that 60s spirit and it’s got punk rock spirit but when we do it, it’s retro and when The White Stripes do it, it’s modern. It’s all to do with people’s perceptions of your band.
LG: It’s all about fucking choice, man; if the music’s there, then great. If no one’s making the music then it’s fucking dead but if it’s there then there’s always fucking hope. As long as people can say, 'Right, I’m going to a gig tonight!' then that’ll do me. It’ll never die.
AB: You know when you get fallow fields and you leave them for a year? Then you get a good crop and rock’s like that. It goes underground and when you least expect it you get a really good crop.
Do you find it a worrying development that something like Mumford & Sons walk away with Best Album at the Brits?
LG: I think it’s alright but they were fucking ashamed about winning and that’s the fucking sad bit. 'Oh, we shouldn’t be here!' Then what did you join a fucking band for then? They bow their heads down going, 'Oh, we don’t deserve it' like a fucking dick. What’s that about? You must have seen it before so don’t pretend like you’ve just come out of a cider apple factory.
AB: I’ve got nothing against them but I get the feeling they went back to their dressing room and went, 'YEAH!' [mimes air-punching].
LG: Still, it’s better than Take That, isn’t it?
Let’s talk influences. Liam, you grew up in Manchester in the 80s and my understanding is that electro and hip-hop was everywhere. Did that make any impact on your life and if so, why didn’t those influences manifest themselves in your music?
LG: ‘Cause I’m not into it now. You get the odd tune coming out every now and again like Wretch 32’s ‘Traktor’. It’s like So Solid Crew but I think they’re better. I like it. One tune and I thought, I’m having that! It’s a sound that does something to me but I won’t be buying the album.
AB: Dance music and hip-hop culture comes into rock music all the time and it’s a free-flowing thing but when it comes to naming your favourite albums of all time, you’ll say Hendrix or The Beatles because that’s where your heart is.
LG: I’m well aware that our new album has been done before. It ain’t nothing new but it’s fucking great. I’m well aware of people going, 'Well, you know, you could’ve put some fucking beats there' but I’m not going to do that for the sake of it. That’s not our fucking thing. We’re quite happy doing the rock & roll thing.
AB: It’s not about copying. Half the bands who want to be modern are copying each other and they’re not authentic in the way that I appreciate. I’m authentic, Liam’s authentic and we’re an authentic band because we do what we feel. We don’t feel constrained by, 'Oh, we might get this if we do a song this way.' We do what we naturally do and it makes us feel good and we’ve got the balls to stand up and do it.
LG: We just like what we do. I heard that fucking Radiohead record and I just go, 'What?!' I like to think that what we do, we do fucking well. Them writing a song about a fucking tree? Give me a fucking break! A thousand year old tree? Go fuck yourself! You’d have thought he’d have written a song about a modern tree or one that was planted last week. You know what I mean?
You’re about to release Beady Eye’s debut album and inevitably critical knives are being sharpened. Does criticism sting after all this time?
LG: Everyone’s got every right to criticise our record. Everyone’s got every fucking right to go, “Oh, it’s The Beatles, it’s The Stones, it’s The Kinks!” but I’ve got a thick skin. All I want is for the kids to like it. I don’t give a shit about the rest. We wouldn’t put this out unless we were 100% behind it. Otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation; this is the record we’ve wanted to make, these are the clothes we like to fucking wear, these are the drinks we like to drink, these are the cigs we like to smoke. There’s no point in kidding yourself – you might as well indulge in what you fucking like. Life’s too fucking short so you might as well have a good time. You’re not going to deprive yourself of shit because of some fucking knobhead in the press.
Your extra-curricular activities include your own clothing range with Pretty Green and you’ve also moved into film production where you’re filming Richard DiLello’s account of Apple Corps, The Longest Cocktail Party. How is the film coming along?
LG: It’s doing all right. We’re not re-inventing the wheel. We’re going back and tweaking a few things and filling it with gems from the past with 60s influence. I like it. It’s getting better all the time and it’s fucking great which is a top position to be in. It’s a personal thing and people either buy it or they don’t; it’s no skin off my fucking nose.
I’ve seen the script and it’s mega. It makes me laugh and it tickles me and it’ll do. But if it’s morbid and it’s boring then it won’t see the light of day. My involvement is getting the right people about. Jesse Armstrong from Peep Show is involved and it’s fucking good, man. I read the script and he narrowed it down a bit and he had me rolling around on the floor. If we can keep it like that it’ll be good, man. There’s a lot of humour in it but it’s a bit dark too. It’s not just one thing; it’s got a bit of everything. But it’s definitely got some fucking funny bits in it and some darkness.
Do you view your relationship with Noel as irreparably damaged?
LG: He hasn’t got people around him going, 'Sort it out' and I haven’t got people around me saying, 'Sort it out.' There’s a lot of people involved in it – without mentioning any names – but I don’t feel the need to go round to his fucking house and have the door slammed in my face. There’s no encouragement from any parties whereas if there was then it would get sorted. But to get it sorted for what? He wants to go on his own and make his own fucking music and be the man and let everyone know that he can fucking flush the toilet without the band or that he can pour his own fucking tea and that’s fine. I haven’t got time for that fucking bollocks in my life.
I want to be part of band and make great records. I haven’t got fucking time for, 'Oh, look at what I can do! I can do this! And I can fucking sack people!' That’s bollocks to me and people like that need to grow up; he needs to go and do that fucking shit. I’ll tell you fucking what, I’m not sitting here for him to go, 'Oh, I’m going to do my solo career and you guys can wait for five years while I fucking lord it around and have it and then I’ll fucking ring you up if it doesn’t go as well as people expect it to be.' Fuck that! We’re gone! We’re out of here!
Say it’s 2014 and someone approaches you with a huge suitcase of cash to reform Oasis for the 20th anniversary of ‘Definitely Maybe’, would you do it?
LG: I know that through my previous work with Oasis that I don’t need it just yet. I’m not going to say, 'Never', but at the moment no fucking chance. But it wouldn’t be for money, mate. I like to think that if we did get back together - which we fucking won’t - but if we did then it would be for the fans. It would be for the people and the music and not for fucking money. Fuck that shit!
You’re a finely turned out band but do you think your career could survive baldness?
LG: No, it couldn’t. But there’s hair transplants these days. Look at that little fucker from Ant and Dec! He was fucking bald in that jungle thing and now he’s got a thick fucking head of hair like Warren Beatty in Shampoo. I turned over to watch the fucking ‘News At Nine’ and I turn it back on and he’s got hair! But it’s a fucking terrible thing, isn’t it?
AB: It’s like Francis Rossi, the poor guy. The ponytail had to go in the end.
LG: But it couldn’t have gone on the front of the head, could it? I’d rather go grey than fucking bald and I’m not going to be dyeing it if it does go grey.
Visit my newly launched Beady Eye fan site www.standingontheedgeofthenoise.com by clicking here.
28 February 2011
Monday, February 28, 2011 stopcryingyourheartout.com 1 comment